Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Get Started as a Freelance Writer—Part Six, Moving from Free to Paid Assignments

First let me say a special thank you to Mary Denman, who filled in so wonderfully for me while I was traveling!

Second, thank you for all your thoughts and prayers while I was away. I have a new appreciation for how important prayer is for someone away on a mission trip. I invite all of you to stay tuned to my Weekend Worship posts for stories about my Ethiopian Mission trip. I took over 1000 pictures (yes, three zeros!) and I’ll be posting them a little at a time on my Facebook page—so if you haven’t friended me, now is the time to do so! (I’m listed as Edie Mahoney Melson on Facebook) Finally, I’m also available to speak to groups about my experiences.

Now, down to business

In the past few weeks many of you have asked questions about how to move from unpaid assignments to ones that pay. Today I’m going to break it down for you.

First, let me assure you that I still have trouble justifying getting paid to write. The reasons are almost too numerous to mention, but almost one hundred percent of them have to do with self confidence.

To succeed as a freelancer you MUST learn to ignore that voice in your head that insists 
you’re not good enough!

Also, it’s important to remember that the expertise you bring isn’t always as a writer—it’s as an expert on the subject of your article.

Here are some specific tips to making the move 
  • Query jobs that pay. I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but a lot of you are afraid to apply for these assignments. At the risk of using a cliché, here’s one of my rules for freelancing—Nothing ventured, nothing gained!
  • Don’t differentiate between unpaid experience and paid experience. To a certain degree writing experience is writing experience—DO NOT tell people you’ve never been paid to write. Especially don’t list assignments on your CV as paid or unpaid. That’s no one’s business but yours. If it was good enough to get published, it was good enough.
  • Acknowledge that your expertise in a subject is worth money. Most of you are plugged into writing groups and can get feedback on the mechanics of any article you’re writing. What those groups can’t give you is the expertise your personal experience gives you. Don’t denigrate that expertise!

Still confused—here’s an example of how to turn experience into dollars. A friend of mine has a lot experience as a crafter/artist. Because of that she read a lot of crafting blogs. She stumbled on one where the posts were less than stellar. She contacted that blog and offered to write a series of four blogs for $25 each. The blogger accepted and it was so successful she had a regular assignment. What the blogger didn’t know—this was her first regular paying assignment.

So these are the questions to ask yourself: 
  • What areas do I have expertise in? Or, if you’re afraid of the word expert—what areas do I have experience in?
  • What areas do I have a passion about?
  • What is an area where I’d like to do in depth research?

Now it’s your turn. What questions do you still have about moving on to paid assignments? If you’ve already moved on, what experience can you share about how you did it?

Don't forget to join the conversation!


  1. This is so right on, Edie! I was working as an RN when I first started trying to become a freelance writer. I had NO interest in writing health articles, but guess what ended up comprising 90% of my freelance income? Yep, you guessed it--health articles. Because of my experience as an RN and because I could take complicated medical information and put it into a conversational voice readers could understand, I became a freelance HEALTH writer. Compared to the average writer, I was an expert.

    We all have areas of expertise, even if it simply starts out as an area of interest...and you're a perfect example. What started out as simply your interest in social networking eventually translated into an expert label for you! :-) Way to go!

  2. Thanks for another great post, Edie! I'm going to spotlight this blog at our Light of Carolina Christian Writers group in September. Blessings!

  3. Vonda, thanks for sharing your story. I know you remember how resistant we both were to being "experts"!
    Barbara, thank you so much for your endorsement and for spreading the word. You're such a blessing!

  4. Edie, this is great with practical tips I WILL use. The biggest one is that voice in my head that you prefaced. Thanks.

  5. Karen, I'm so glad to know this info is applicable. I hate getting info that I can't use! Thanks for all your great comments.
    Blessings - E

  6. Hey all,

    Just wanted to give you a heads up that we launched a site for freelance writers to find paid gigs (Scripted.com). Have a look, and let us know what you think! We have a bunch of open projects at the moment, so please feel free to apply! Thanks, and look forward to hearing your feedback.

    Best Regards,

    Sunil Rajaraman
    Co-Founder and CEO